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15-time US cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton handed 4-year doping ban

42-year-old has been one of the leading women in the discipline for almost two decades

Katie Compton, 15 times a US national cyclo-cross champion and runner-up in the discipline at the world championships on four occasions, has been handed a four-year ban for doping. The rider, who insists she always rode clean, has described the news as "soul crushing" but says she cannot afford to fight to clear her name.

The 42-year-old, who won the national title in cyclo-cross for 15 years in succession from 2004 to 2018, has enjoyed huge success on the cyclo-cross circuit, with 25 victories in World Cup races and has been one of the leading female riders in the discipline for almost two decades.

Today, the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA) announced that the 42-year-old had “tested positive for an anabolic agent as the result of an out-of-competition drug test on September 16, 2020.

“Her urine sample was analysed using a specialised test, known as Carbon Isotope Ratio testing, that differentiates between anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) naturally produced by the body and prohibited anabolic agents of external origin.

“Anabolic agents have powerful performance-enhancing capabilities and can give an athlete an unfair advantage over fellow competitors,” the USADA statement continued.

“All AAS are Non-Specified Substances in the class of Anabolic Agents and are prohibited at all times under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policy, and the Union Cycliste Internationale Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List,” USADA said.

“Compton’s four-year period of ineligibility began on September 16, 2020, the date her positive sample was collected. In addition, Compton has been disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to September 16, 2020, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes,” it added.

Besides her successes in cyclo-cross, Compton is also a two-time Paralympic champion, acting as tandem pilot to Karissa Whitsell at Athens in 2004.

In a statement, she said: 

This news comes with great heartache and sadness, and it is the worst possible way to end my cycling career. I need to preface this news with the fact that I have always been a clean athlete, and I am proud of how much I have accomplished racing clean and being very careful with whatever I put into my body, especially after dealing with so many health issues throughout my life.

I provided a sample for USADA in September 2020 that came back negative for any banned substances, it was not even atypical. That news was communicated to me in the same way it has always been via a letter from USADA. I’ve received that same letter after every test I’ve submitted for the last 19 years. In early February of 2021, after returning from a difficult race season, I learned that the same sample from September was re-analysed due to a bio-passport irregularity and found to be positive for an exogenous anabolic steroid. This was devastating news to me as I have never intentionally or knowingly put anything like that into my body. I know how delicate women's hormones are, and I would never choose to take anything to jeopardise my health and, as a result, suffer irreparable damage to my endocrine system. And not only that, I never took anything for ethical and moral reasons; I’ve been a strong proponent of clean sport my entire career and feel doing anything to enhance one’s own natural ability is cheating, full stop.

Despite deciding to retire in March, I also felt the need to try and defend myself and my reputation. I hired a lawyer and did my best to investigate how the substance got into my system but was unsuccessful in finding that answer. Over the past six months, I learned that I cannot prove that I didn’t intentionally take anything, and I can’t afford to keep fighting knowing the outcome will be the same regardless. Unfortunately, seeing that it was five months between the sample collection and the notification, trying to figure what allegedly got into my body proved to be impossible, and I have decided to stop fighting an expensive and difficult battle and accept the sanction.

So, it is with great stress and sorrow that I've ended my competitive career. My friends and family know how much I'm against doping and know it is a topic in which I have always been outspoken. This news is gut-wrenching to me and the worst period I've ever experienced during my life so far. I've processed all the emotions over the past year and realized that I don't need bike racing in my life anymore. I still love riding my bike and enjoying that with friends, but I have no desire to ever race or be competitive again, which is probably good since the sanction includes a four-year ban from competition.

I wanted to share this news prior to USADA releasing it to the public so you hear it from me first. I'm obviously stepping away from the competitive cycling world for the next few years and don't know what my future within the sport may look like post sanction, but I want people to know that I'll miss the racing community, specifically all the amazing people I've met along the way who simply share the love of riding bikes. I'll always cherish the experiences and wonderful adventures cycling has given me while also acknowledging that it has brought me plenty of heartache and disappointment, and I'm emotionally and mentally exhausted. Ending my career this way is simply soul-crushing. It physically hurts and makes me incredibly sad.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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